Wall St. roars back on robust jobs report, dovish Powell remarks

Traders look at price monitors as they work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City
FILE PHOTO: Traders look at price monitors as they work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

January 4, 2019

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street rebounded on Friday after a strong payrolls report and remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that suggested the central bank would be flexible with monetary policy.

All three major U.S. stock indexes more than regained ground lost in Thursday’s broad sell-off, rising more than 3 percent and setting up the indexes to post weekly gains at the end of the first, tumultuous week of the new year.

Technology stocks <.SPLRCT> led the charge, jumping 4.3 percent, bouncing back from the prior session’s worst day for the sector in over seven years.

The Labor Department’s employment report showed the U.S. economy added 312,000 new jobs in December, far more than the 177,000 analysts expected.

Powell, in remarks to the American Economic Association, soothed market nerves with assurances that the central bank is sensitive to risks that worry investors and is not on a preset path of interest rate hikes.

“When you get such a strong jobs report and a Fed chairman saying he’s patient and flexible it sends a message to the markets that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist, senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Pavlik added. “But it’s the first time (Powell has) said anything that’s dovish enough for the markets liking.”

News that China and the United States would hold trade talks in Beijing next week helped tariff-vulnerable industrials lead the Dow’s rally, headed by Caterpillar Inc <CAT.N>, United Technologies Corp <UTX.N>, 3M Co <MMM.N> and Boeing Co <BA.N>.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 710.68 points, or 3.13 percent, to 23,396.9, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 78.06 points, or 3.19 percent, to 2,525.95 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 268.48 points, or 4.15 percent, to 6,731.99.

All 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 were in positive territory, with technology, communications services <.SPLRCL>, consumer discretionary <.SPLRCD> and materials <.SPLRCM> stocks seeing the largest percentage gains.

Apple shares rose 3.9 percent and led the tech sector’s advance as the iPhone maker began to recover ground lost after warning of a holiday quarter revenue shortfall on Wednesday.

Each of the FAANG momentum stocks, a group that includes Facebook Inc <FB.O>, Apple Inc <AAPL.O>, Amazon.com <AMZN.O>, Netflix Inc <NFLX.O> and Google parent Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O> were trading higher.

Netflix jumped 8.8 percent after Goldman Sachs added the streaming service to its “conviction list.”

An easing of investor jitters was reflected in the CBOE Volatility index <.VIX>, which dipped to its lowest level since mid-December.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 7.30-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 6.54-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 5 new highs and 14 new lows.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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